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Can I claim both unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal? What's the difference?

Yes, you can claim both wrongful dismissal and unfair dismissal. Any money received for wrongful dismissal, however, will usually be cancelled out by the amount received for unfair dismissal (and vice versa) to stop you receiving double compensation.

Having answered the first question, let's turn to the differences between unfair dismissal and unfair dismissal:

(1) Statutory claim vs. contractual claim

The first key difference is that wrongful dismissal involves a breach of contract, whereas unfair dismissal involves a statutory breach.

To be more precise, wrongful dismissal arises when your employer breaches a term of your employment contract -- the term may be expressly written into the contract or implied by operation of law -- which results in dismissal or forces you to resign.

In contrast, unfair dismissal occurs when your employer sacks you or forces you to resign in breach of some statutory provision. For example, your employer may lack a fair reason for dismissing you; your employer may fail to follow the correct dismissal process; or your employer may dismiss you for an automatically unfair reason (e.g., because you're pregnant).

(2) Court vs. tribunal

Another key distinction is that you can pursue your claim for wrongful dismissal either in the civil courts or before an employment tribunal. But you can only claim unfair dismissal in front of an employment tribunal.

(3) Remedies

The rules on remedies are also very different for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

There are two remedies available for unfair dismissal: re-instatement / re-engagement and compensation. While tribunals rarely order re-instatement or re-engagement for unfair dismissal (since few claimants request it), they never do for wrongful dismissal.

Moreover, unlike wrongful dismissal, compensation for unfair dismissal consists of two elements -- the basic award and the compensatory award. The basic award is determined by reference to a fixed statutory formula and limited to a maximum overall payment of (as of 6 April 2014) £13,920. The amount a court/tribunal can order for the compensatory award is also limited, currently to £76,574.

Since wrongful dismissal is founded on contract law, it is subject to standard rules for contractual damages. This means you cannot recover damages that do not arise naturally from the breach. And damages should put you, so far as money can, in the same position as if the contract had been performed. There is no limit on the amount of damages a civil court can award for wrongful dismissal. But an employment tribunal cannot award more than £25,000.

(4) Time Limits

The time limit for filing a claim with an employment tribunal is the same for both unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal -- within three months of your last day of employment.

As stated above, however, you can pursue your claim for wrongful dismissal either in the civil courts or an employment tribunal. The time limit for filing in civil court is much longer -- you have six years from the date you were dismissed.

(5) Service qualification

Generally, only employees who have two years' continuity of service at the date of dismissal, or have been dismissed without notice and are within two weeks of gaining two years' continuity of service, can claim unfair dismissal. There is no service qualification period for claiming wrongful dismissal.

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